London is renowned for its vibrant cafe culture, with coffee shops and cafes scattered throughout the city. Taking a break during the day to enjoy a cup of coffee is a common workplace practice, and when it comes to socializing with friends, Parisians and Londoners have slightly different expectations, reflecting the distinct cultures of these two cities. So what makes these experiences so unique? The third wave of coffee wouldn't have been possible without the baristas of the two antipodes, but it is the Kiwis who have made a mark when it comes to coffee culture in London. Agnes Potter, CEO of Allpress Coffee, born in New Zealand and based in the United Kingdom, has several theories about why her country has been so influential, from its strong dairy industry — a quality they share with Great Britain — to its inspiring resistance to chains.
But what exactly is specialty coffee? For Kinnell, there is no definitive definition, other than sourced, locally roasted and fresh coffee. Ideally, it should bear the name of the farmer. However, according to Langdon, the specialty coffee journey doesn't begin or end with the bean. This term is accompanied by the expectation in coffee shops that baristas prepare coffee with care and attention to quality.
After all, he continues, there is no point in spending money on good coffee, only to ruin it at every subsequent stage of the process. It may come as a surprise that this trend has been developing for centuries. By the middle of the 18th century, it was estimated that there were several thousand coffee shops in London alone. If we had the same number of coffee shops per capita as we had back then, they would vastly outnumber those found in our towns and cities today.
I spoke to two world-renowned coffee experts to learn more about the history of coffee shop culture in the UK and how things have changed. It all began with Pasqua Rosée (believed to have come from somewhere near present-day Croatia) who established the first coffee shop in London a year or two later. Happy hour is for everyone, and in Paris there is a blurred line between cafe and bar while pubs are usually the safest option in London (unless it's one of those rare sunny days when locals flock to parks with cans or cans of beer). The truth is that behind almost every good coffee shop in the last 20 years there is a New Zealander or an Australian, either explicitly or by extension, just as the French were once behind good restaurants in London.
You can also try desserts from around the world in London or take this coffee route through central London. However, this obesogenic trend with whipped coffees — as Danny Davis, CEO of Climpson & Sons calls them — has revolutionized how coffee is roasted, served and consumed in London and across the United Kingdom.